Atheer – Oman News Agency
The Oxford Business Group (OBG) has published a report hailing the Sultanate’s progress in its air transport and logistics sectors.
In its report, OBG said that Oman is stepping up investment in air transport, by announcing the arrival of a new fleet of aircraft, as well as routes to North Africa and Europe and an expansion of existing flight services as part of a strategy to support growth in tourism and logistics.
The report added that in February, Oman Air announced that it would initiate three new routes as part of its 2018 expansion plan, with flights to Casablanca, Istanbul and Moscow to commence in June, July and October, respectively. The announcement follows the launch of connections to Manchester and Nairobi last year. The airline is also looking to strengthen its position in the Indian aviation market, aiming to more than double flights to the country and explore the feasibility of launching new routes to Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Mangalore.
OBG suggested that this was part of a strategy aiming to expand the airline’s footprint to 39 million passengers by 2030. To achieve this goal, the carrier has invested in a new fleet of airliners.
The OBG report pointed out that the investment being channelled into Oman Air is central to the Sultanate’s wider plans to spur tourism growth, in line with its ninth five-year development plan its and broader economic diversification strategy, which identifies tourism and logistics, along with manufacturing, as three sectors with strong expansion potential.
By adopting a destination-oriented business model, Oman Air is hoping to emulate the recent success of Iceland, which enjoyed growth in its tourism sector by investing in its national carrier, Icelandair.
OBG’s report further said that the results so far have been promising. Passenger numbers grew by 10.9 percent last year to reach 8.5 million and the number of flights more than doubled from 31,000 to 68,500. Increased investment in air links is also being supported by infrastructure expansion at airports.
The Oxford Business Group also touched upon the 1.8 billion Dollar new Muscat International Airport, which involves the construction of a new 580,000-sq-metre terminal. While some 14 million people passed through the airport last year, the project will see the annual capacity increased to around 20 million initially. A four-phase expansion schedule has been outlined for the terminal, which will see the capacity eventually rise to 48 million.
This follows the opening of a new terminal at Salalah International Airport in 2015, which has seen passenger traffic increase from 841,000 in 2014 to 1.5 million in 2017. Sohar Airport, meanwhile, which opened in 2014, has added further capacity through the launch of international flights in July last year. In addition, a new 8500-square metre terminal at Duqm is scheduled to open this year, boosting annual capacity by 500,000 passengers.
The report added that along with supporting the tourism industry, the expansion of Oman’s air transport capacity is also expected to complement growth in the logistics sector.
Freight transport at Muscat International Airport increased by 24 percent last year, with cargo volumes exceeding 200,000 tonnes. This is likely to rise further, as global delivery firm DHL has started running weekly freighter operations between Muscat and Bahrain International Airport.
OBG noted that air connectivity developments has come hamd in hand with a series of investments in domestic road infrastructure, with a number of projects recently completed.